How Finlay stoked the fires of The Troubles when wrestling in the UK


Hamish Woodward

William Regal and Finlay are two of the biggest stars to come out of British Wrestling in the 1980s and make it big in America.

Both wrestled for Joint Promotions in England and were featured Heavyweights when “the wrestling” was broadcast on ITV as part of the “World of Sport” broadcast.

The pair became stars in the United Kingdom and travelled all across the globe, honing their craft and becoming fantastic wrestlers in their field.

Years of battling landed both men jobs in the United States, with William Regal signing for WCW in 1993 and Finlay following in 1996.

Fit Finlay battling Johnny Saint on World of Sport, in the middle of his “anti-Britain” gimmick.

They both later joined WWE, becoming featured characters for the promotion and enjoying varying levels of success.

Finlay did not join WWE until his late 40s, yet still managed a United States Championship reign, as well as some hit storylines alongside his “son” Hornswoggle.

Finlay represented Ireland in “the troubles” feuds.

Before their fame and fortune, the pair came up together in British wrestling, with Finlay in particular battling the stereotypes of the day, using some of them to his advantage in a creative way.

On his Gentleman Villain podcast William Regal talked about Finlay (known as “Fit Finlay” at the time) during their time together wrestling for Joint Promotions in England.

He revealed that during The Troubles, a time when tensions between Britain and Ireland were at an all-time high, Finlay steered into the discrimination suffered by Irish and Northern Irish people in Britain.

He freely wore shamrocks on his gear, playing into his Irish roots and stoking tensions which were running high at the time.

Finlay wore shamrocks on his gear during a time that tensions between Britain and Ireland were at an all time high.

This was during a time when the IRA were planting bombs in the UK, and British troops murdered 26 civilians in Northern Ireland during protests.

Both sides committed violence against each other and an effective war was on.

William Regal said Finlay was “spat on” by “normal people in Britain” when he or his wife would simply visit the shops in his home town.

He played into the hate and carved out a niche as a top heel by playing into his Northern Irish heritage, which great success.

‘Fit Finlay was, when he was on his game, when he was on TV in Britain in the 80s, this is a fellow.

‘When there was a war going on between Britain and the IRA. From Belfast, where in shamrocks, right? And there’s there’s there’s a war going on, that’s a big statement.

‘I cannot tell you how much. Times and you’ll see if you ever see any of these things, whether it was it’s in people that were trying to put the ring on him or his or his then ex-wife Paula, it was his manager.

‘Every time people left, right and centre, Paula is telling me that she told me many times that she’d go to the local supermarket where they lived in Manchester, and there was wrestling fans there and they’d be spitting at.

‘In the streets, people spit, and they used to have to go out and be watching everywhere because people bought into it so much, but on top of not only just being a wrestler but play, you know, the media said that the what was going on nothing to do with normal people in Britain.

‘It’s a problem with the British government and in Ireland, it’s got nothing to do with the normal people, but the normal people are fed whatever the newspapers are feeding them. So there was this. Terrible stuff going on and the people you’re going out on TV and being. I mean, he was having to fight a lot.’

Finlay later brought this gimmick to the United States, where he debuted in WCW by attacking William Regal, due to the ‘400 years of oppression’ by England on Ireland.


Contact Brit Wrestling here, or email us at

Contact Us is part of the Woodward Digital media group.



Join our email list to receive the latest updates.